German Olympians look to dominate winter games

Germany will be looking to at the stay top of the Winter Olympics medal table at Vancouver despite a morale-sapping doping scandal which claimed multiple gold-medal winner Claudia Pechstein.

German Olympians look to dominate winter games
Biathlete Andrea Henkel at Antholz, Italy last week. Photo: DPA

The German team won 29 medals at the 2006 Turin Games, a haul that included 11 gold, 12 silver and six bronze.

Since reunification in 1990, Germany has never finished outside the top three in the medal tables and was top at Albertville in 1992, Nagano in 1998 and Turin.

The 2010 team has some rising stars in their respective disciplines including Maria Riesch, who will be pushing her close American friend Lindsey Vonn all the way in the alpine skiing disciplines.

In the biathlon, rising star Magdalena Neuner and veteran Kati Wilhelm, who won gold in the women’s pursuit in 2006, will be leading a typically strong team.

For the men, biathlete Michael Greis will be looking to repeat the three gold medals success he achieved in Turin.

The women’s team seems to be hitting form at just the right time after several successes in Antholz, Italy, last weekend.

Andrea Henkel stood on all three spots on the podium after achieving third in the Individual, second in the Sprint and a win in the Pursuit, while Neuner collected two first places and a second.

But it has not all been good news for the German team recently.

Claudia Pechstein’s doping ban will damage medal chances, as the 37-year-old has the experience of five Olympic gold medals under her belt from each of the last four games.

She was ruled out of competing in Vancouver despite a last-ditch appeal to a Swiss Federal Court against a doping ban from July 2009 by the International Skating Union (ISU) on the basis of irregularities in her blood.

On the sliding events, Germany is once again looking to dominate, having claimed bobsleigh golds in the two-man, two-woman and four-man events in Turin, while Sylke Otto picked up a gold in the women’s singles luge.

With three Olympic gold medals under his belt, veteran bobsledder Andre Lang, who has 14 world championship medals, will be looking to claim a medal at his third consecutive winter games.

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Germany’s Buchenwald camp calls out ‘disrespectful’ sleddding at site

The German memorial at former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald Thursday demanded an end to visitors playing winter sports at the site, after some were even spotted sledging at its mass graves.

Germany's Buchenwald camp calls out 'disrespectful' sleddding at site
The former Buchenwald concentration camp pictured in July 2020. Photo: DPA

Criticising “disrespectful” behaviour, the foundation asked guests to refrain from leisure pastimes at Buchenwald and the former subcamp Mittelbau-Dora in eastern Germany.

“Sporting activities are a violation of visitor rules and disturb the peace of the dead,” it said in a statement, warning that its security staff would be stepping up patrols and trespassers would be reported to the police.

The director of the foundation, Jens-Christian Wagner, told news website Der Spiegel that “masses” of daytrippers had gathered at the site over the weekend and most seemed to have come for fun in the snow.

“Some of the sledge tracks ended at the mass graves,” he said.

Wagner said he could understand that many families with children wanted to spend time outside, particularly during a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, but that the memorial expected appropriate behaviour from its visitors.

“As time passes, historical sensitivity is fading,” he said.

More than 76,000 men, women and children died at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora during World War II. They were either killed by the Nazis or perished through illness, cold or starvation.

Thousands of Jews were among the dead, but also Roma, gypsies and political opponents of the Nazis, gays and Soviet prisoners of war.

Last January the then head of the Buchenwald foundation, Volkhard Knigge, warned that unwanted visits from neo-Nazis were becoming an increasing problem ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation.

“We increasingly find messages in the guest book claiming that Nazism and the concentration camps were sensible and good for the Germans,” he told German media.